Home Culture Culture Lists

Sci-Fi & Fantasy at Emmy Awards: Who’s Won, Who’s Been Fracked

From ‘Buffy’ to ‘Battlestar,’ how science fiction, fantasy and other genre-fan favorites have fared


Genre television has long been the unwanted bastard stepchild of the Primetime Emmy Awards. Not action, mystery or thriller, mind you. (There were a few years in the Eighties when the Outstanding Drama Series category was almost nothing but cop shows.) No, we're talking about science fiction and fantasy, which conventional wisdom would have you believe are less-than-respectable genres in which aliens, vampires, robots and/or dragons supplant more "serious" issues that get explored in mainstream dramas.

But of course, any geek worth their weight in still-boxed action figures knows that that simply isn't true anymore, and probably never was. From The Twilight Zone to Battlestar Galactica, TV creators have been using fantasy and speculative worlds as an arena to tackle big, meaty, human stories.

And while many viewers and critics have long known this to be the case, middle-of-the-road–loving Emmy voters are slow on the uptake. In the 67-year history of the Primetime Emmy awards, only one genre show has taken home the coveted Outstanding Drama Series statuette: Lost, in 2005. Though sci-fi and genre shows fare decently in the Creative Arts Emmys (all those cool costumes and special effects will do that), only a handful of sci-fi or fantasy shows have ever won Primetime awards.

But could this be the year that genre finally rises to the top of the heap? The 2015 deck is stacked in favor of HBO's Game of Thrones, which garnered 24 nominations — more than any other show this year. What's more, fan and critical darling Tatiana Maslany scored an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nod this year for the eight-plus roles she plays in BBC America's clone conspiracy thriller, Orphan Black.

Here's a look at where sci-fi and fantasy shows have stood in Emmy voters' eyes in ceremonies past, from the loved to the snubbed.

Play video

‘Game of Thrones’

Which brings us to genre TV's great white hope, the Breaker of Chains, the Sword in the Darkness, Azor Ahai reborn (okay, okay, we'll stop mixing our mythos). David Benioff and D.B. Weiss's HBO fantasy juggernaut virtually dominated the 2015 nominations, though Game of Thrones has garnered loads of nods in past years, for best drama series, writing, directing and acting. But the only win so far has been a supporting actor trophy for Peter Dinklage in 2011. Still, the show trounced the competition in the Creative Arts Emmys earlier this week, and is nominated in five primetime categories including Best Drama. Could this be the year it takes the Iron Throne?

Play video

‘Orphan Black’

If ever there were a dark horse nominee that deserved the ascension, it's the almost supernaturally talented Tatiana Maslany. BBC America's punk-tinged feminist sci-fi thriller is the kind of show that usually flies under Emmy voters' radar. But it was hard to ignore the groundswell of support from critics and fans for Maslany, who has earned a 2015 Lead Actress nod for playing pretty much all of the main characters (plus a few supporting roles and antagonists, and also a scorpion?). The Emmys gave a statuette to Toni Collette for her shape-shifting performance in United States of Tara in 2009; here's hoping the voters can still recognize virtuosity when they see it.

Show Comments